Coming into the 2015 season, the Milwaukee Brewers expected Kyle Lohse to be an anchor within their starting rotation. After all, the veteran had been Milwaukee’s most consistent pitcher since signing a free agent contract before the 2013 season – 4.2 fWAR and a 3.45 ERA in 397.0 innings covering the two seasons proceeding this one. Other than his advanced age of 36 years old coming into the season, there was little to indicate that regression was coming from Lohse.
The fall of Kyle Lohse has therefore been swift and difficult to watch in 2015. He gave up eight runs in 3.1 innings in an Opening Day loss to the Colorado Rockies, and things have been downhill since then. In 22 starts, Lohse has met the definition of a “quality start” (6+ innings pitched, three runs or less allowed) only five times this season. To find his last such performance, one would have to turn their calendar all the way back to June 20th, when Kyle allowed three runs in 6.0 innings in a loss to Colorado in the rare air of the Rocky Mountains.
Lohse, of course, started yesterday’s game against the Chicago Cubs, and received more of the same results. The right hander made it through just 4.1 innings before being pulled with runners on base and a pitch count nearing 100. Kyle served up his 25th home run of the season and allowed four runs total to cross the plate, taking the decision in a game the Brewers lost 4-3. Lohse, seeming somewhat numb, was still searching for answers after the game. “I think we’ve had this discussion about 10 other times,” Lohse told reporters yesterday. “It’s frustrating. I’m going into every start with the same mentality I’ve always had. I’m going to be aggressive…I’ve been around a while…I have to just keep going.”
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The rebuilding Brewers had been giving Lohse every opportunity to try an reestablish some value throughout this season. Reports surfaced all the way back in May that Lohse was on the trading block, yet his poor performances and high salary this season have kept any potential suitors from biting. Lohse is the second worst pitcher in the league in terms of ERA, has allowed the second most home runs, and his ERA of 6.31 would be the second highest total of any season in Lohse’s 15 year major league career. Lohse’s peripheral statistics, like a 5.22 DRA and 114 cFIP-, don’t leave much room for optimism for the rest of this season, either.
Though the Brewers failed to move Lohse prior to last Friday’s non waiver trade deadline, there had been hope of him being a potential August trade candidate. With his most recent start, however, those hopes have likely been dashed. Kyle is still due more than $3.5 mil during the remainder of this season, and even if the Brewers are willing to eat most of that, it’s going to be nearly impossible to facilitate a deal with another team. Lohse isn’t an arm that a team would use in a postseason rotation, and he hasn’t made a relief appearance during the regular season since 2009. Manager Craig Counsell has consistently stuck with Lohse throughout the season, even choosing to go with a six-man rotation when Wily Peralta returned from injury, but with the team now headed in a new direction it appears that Lohse’s time in Milwaukee may be drawing to a close.
In the beginning stages of a rebuild, the Brewers have little use for Lohse’s services any longer. Rather than continue to give the veteran starts in the final season of his contract, the Brewers could use those spots to get a better look at some of the younger pitchers who could be a part of the future: guys like Tyler Cravy, Tyler Thornburg, and (my personal favorite) Michael Blazek. Doug Melvin has also intimated that 23 year old Zach Davies, acquired from Baltimore in the Gerardo Parra deal and ranked as Milwaukee’s 11th best prospect, could get a look later on this season, as well. The Brewers have not been afraid to cut loose struggling veterans like Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf in the past, and Lohse appears well on his way to becoming the latest roster casualty.
After getting swept by the Cubs over the weekend, the Milwaukee Brewers now sit a 44-62 and are just three games better than the league worst Phillies. The Brewers start a three game series tonight at Miller Park against the Padres (51-54), with Wily Peralta (2-5, 3.90 ERA) taking the mound for Milwaukee opposite of Tyson Ross (7-8, 3.38 ERA).